We had already seen the Gur Emir Mausoleum from the outside the day we had arrived at Samarkand and although we were impressed then I didn't think any of us was prepared for what we saw during this visit, particularly as far as its interior was concerned, taking into account the fact that by then we had been to quite a few mausoleums.
"Gur Emir" means the grave of the ruler, and in this particular case, Timur. In spite of having been initially built for Timur's grandson, Mohammed Sultan, this Mausoleum houses the tombs of Timur, his sons and grandsons.
Mohammed's unexpected death during a military campaign in 1403 was a tragedy and more so for Timur who had him in high consideration and expected him to be his successor.
The interior of the Mausoleum is profusely decorated. The marble slabs above the green onyx panel are decorated with colourful inscriptions and gilt, while the walls are covered by enormous panels with a large star-like "ghirih". The arches and the inner dome are ornamented with high relief "papier maché cartouches" gilded and covered with small floral ornaments.The wooden doors have splendid carving with nacre and silver incrustations.
The largest gravestone belongs to Timur's spiritual teacher, Mir Said Baraka, at whose foot Timur wanted to be buried. Every headstone is made of marble, the exception being the one of Timur's which is from a solid block of dark green jade. The ensemble contains the tombs of Timur, his sons Shahrukh Mirza and Miranshah, as well as his grandsons Mohammed Sultan and Oulough Begh, as well as his great grandsons (Oulough Begh's children).
(To be continued)